Some of my fondest memories from my travels revolve around dining tables overflowing with fresh and bountiful seafood, from freshly shucked oysters to live-caught fish. But nothing compares to a perfectly seasoned and tender bite of octopus. While most people are intimidated by preparing this eight-tentacled mollusk, my black-eyed pea and charred octopus salad is simple to prepare and sure to impress guests at your next gathering. Originating from North Africa, black-eyed peas are an Old World staple that made their way into Europe by way of Spanish explorers and enslaved Africans. Print
Black-Eyed Pea and Charred Octopus Salad
The combination of octopus, a popular Portuguese ingredient, with black-eyed peas is an illustration of the foodways and migration of the African diaspora into the New World. This great base recipe can be jazzed up with additional seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, corn, or squash.
NOTE: If a cast-iron pan isn’t available, you can also use a heavy sauté pan or charcoal grill.
- 1 pound octopus, cleaned
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- Salt for boiling and to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (canned or homemade), drained (If canned, allow to drain for at least 30 minutes)
- 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
- 3 tablespoons parsley leaves,
- coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves,
- coarsely chopped
- Place the octopus in a large pot and cover with water, enough to keep the octopus submerged but not swim¬ming in water. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and salt, then bring the water to a boil. Continue to boil for 30 minutes or until the octopus is tender.
- Once the octopus is tender, remove from the water and rinse under cold water.
- Place the octopus in a medium-size bowl and add ¼ cup of the oil, garlic, and half of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and let marinate for 45 minutes.
- Heat a medium-size cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Begin charring the octopus, turning every 3 to 5 minutes. Once the octopus is nicely charred, remove it from the pan and slice it into medium-size pieces.
- In a separate bowl, toss together the peas, green onion, parsley, cilantro, octopus, the remaining ¼ cup oil, and the remaining lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from BLACK FOOD: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House.
Photographs copyright © 2021 Oriana Koren.